Princess Madeline and Sir Gregory are the hero and heroine of my latest medieval romantic exploit Tamed by the Knight, but what of the secondary characters? In this case, they are mostly of the four legged kind…
“Come,” he said. “Our party awaits.”
“We will be traveling with others? An armed escort?” In spite of her bravado, Madeline rather liked the idea of being accompanied by a contingent of soldiers. Her mother and sister would certainly be protected that way.
“Something like that,” Sir Gregory replied. “Come.”
Madeline followed him to the stables where their horses had been readied. The horses were not alone. There were also two hounds, tall, lanky creatures with broad chests and wide heads filled with flashing teeth. Their black rimmed maws opened in wide panting grins as Sir Gregory approached. One lunged toward him as he drew closer and put its paws on his chest. Standing erect, it was almost as tall as he. Sir Gregory greeted the creature with a vigorous rubbing on the back of its head which made the animal throw its face into the air and pant its glee. It was a well dressed beast, a thick metal collar ran the length of its neck, etched with scenes of battle and valor. Sir Gregory laughed as the beast lapped at his face with its great tongue.
Looking on in wonder, Madeline was both intimidated and amazed. She had seen the war hounds occasionally at great distance, but they were much larger and more powerful than she had imagined. Their coats were thick and dense, of a gorgeous golden hue, and their paws were almost as large as the hooves of the horses who stood nearby.
“This fellow is Nosewise,” Sir Gregory said by way of introduction. “ The other is his mother, Holdfast. They are most excellent battle hounds. Having these two is as good as having half a dozen armed men.”
Nosewise dropped back to four paws with a heavy thud and grinned in Madeline’s direction. She gave the animal an uneasy wave. He easily outweighed her, and she was certain her head would probably fit in his mouth. Being accompanied by such a beast was like being told that their escort would be a lion. Though both hounds seemed friendly enough in that moment, she could easily imagine how fearsome they would be unleashed on a foe.
“You need not fear either of them,” Sir Gregory assured her. “They are very well trained.”
“In the art of rending flesh and breaking bone,” Madeline said, edging her way around toward Melyngar. The horses were also armored, lightly enough not to slow them unduly, but with face plates protecting their forelocks from the slings and arrows of potential attackers.
“The dogs are armored, the horses are armored and you are armored,” Madeline noted. “Should I not also wear some?”
“I do have chain mail in your size,” Sir Gregory said. “But you may find it impractically heavy, especially when riding.”
“Let me try it,” Madeline insisted, donning the leather cap he handed to her. “I would be protected at least as well as a hound.”
Entertaining her desire, Sir Gregory called for mail. It was bought to him making a soft tinkling sound. Madeline was rather excited by the prospect of wearing it. No princess she had ever heard of wore mail. Elizabeth could keep her grand dresses, Madeline would be wearing a dress of linked chain.
He held the hauberk up over her head and let it fall over her shoulders in a soft clatter not unlike the falling of rain on shingles. The weight was greater than she had imagined and she felt herself stooping beneath the burden.
“Lovely,” she said. “Perfect.”
“Walk toward me,” Sir Gregory said, taking three strides back. “Let me see how you move.”
Madeline managed three shambling steps whilst the tall knight shook his head and smirked. “It is far too heavy for your frame,” he chuckled. “It will unbalance you in the saddle. Remove it.”
“No,” Madeline insisted, fingering the metal rings. “It will keep me safe.”
“There is no safety in being weighed down,” Sir Gregory replied. “If worst comes to worst, your agility and speed will be all that stands between you and harm. Aside from myself, Nosewise and Holdfast of course. Come here and let me have it.”
“You are wrong,” she declared. “I am agile as ever!” She tried to dart away, but only succeeded in tripping over her own feet. She would have fallen but for Sir Gregory catching her by the back of the metal shirt.
“Do you like having a head full of teeth, princess? You will not have them long if you fall on your face.”